They want to keep me in custody as long as possible: Chidambaram

P. Chidambaram. File photo: Sandeep Saxena

P. Chidambaram. File photo: Sandeep Saxena  

Former Minister appeals against denial of regular bail by Delhi HC

Former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, through his lawyer and senior advocate Kapil Sibal, argued in the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the actual idea behind his incarceration in the INX Media case is “to keep him in custody as long as possible.”

“Why did they not question me all this time in judicial custody? Now they are claiming they want to question him, knowing the case is in this court,” Mr. Sibal argued before a three-judge Bench led by Justice R. Banumathi.

Mr. Chidambaram has appealed against a Delhi High Court decision denying him regular bail in the ED’s charge of money laundering slapped against him in the INX Media case.

Senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, also for Mr. Chidambaram, pointed out that the latter has been in jail for 99 days.

Mr. Sibal contended that the ED has not been able to find even “one undisclosed property or asset” against his client.

“All they claim is Karti (Mr. Chidambaram’s son and named an accused in the INX Media case) is an owner of the shell company, Advantage Strategic Consulting. Mr. Chidambaram is his father. So he crafted the entire scheme... But there is no proof of crime committed by the petitioner, no evidence of any communication, SMS or email, made by the petitioner. Leave alone ‘gravity’ of the crime, there is no crime here at all,” Mr. Sibal argued.

He alleged that the High Court has reproduced the ED’s statements as its judicial findings to deny Mr. Chidambaram bail.

“They [ED] have said it would be sending a wrong message to the country if I am released on bail. It is as if I am some ‘Ranga-Billa’,” Mr. Sibal said.

The bail was denied by the High Court citing gravity of the offence, Mr. Singhvi submitted.

He contended that ‘extraordinary’ cases in which bail may be denied include terrorism, child molestation and repeated offences of a grievous nature. But that was not the case here.

“So if the logic of gravity of offence is applied here, I have to be in jail till the trial is over,” Mr. Singhvi submitted.

He said grant of bail is determined on the basis of the triple test. In this context, the High Court had categorically held that Mr. Chidambaram was not a flight risk and the ED has not alleged this. The investigating agencies had neither argued nor produced any material to show tampering of evidence by him. Besides, the alleged material in the case was already with the probe agencies, the government and the courts.

The petition filed by Mr. Chidambaram contended that the Delhi High Court decision denying him bail on November 15 was “erroneous, unsustainable and liable to be set aside.”

The ED is expected to argue against bail on November 28. It has filed a counter affidavit claiming it has recovered substantial and cogent material against Mr. Chidambaram.

The agency has alleged it has documentary evidence, which includes e-mail exchanges between the co-conspirators who are laundering the money for the petitioner (Chidambaram) and his family members. The agency has offered to produce the evidence in court in a sealed cover.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 6:21:24 AM |

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